24 Feb 2014
BARCELONA: Samsung is currently the undenied ruler of the Android ecosystem, with every analyst firm listing it as the world's biggest smartphone maker. But last year, with the release of its flagship Galaxy S4, some critics began to express concerns that the Korean firm was resting on its laurels, simply releasing a tweaked version of the Galaxy S3.
Luckily Samsung has worked hard to quell these criticisms with its new Galaxy S5 flagship smartphone.
Design and build
The Galaxy S5 is one of the most striking devices Samsung has ever made. Unlike previous smooth-finish Samsung smartphones, the Galaxy S5 features a perforated, slightly rubberised backplate and is available in more striking colour options.
The device is also slightly chunkier and heavier than the previous Samsung handsets, measuring in at 142x73x8.1mm and weighing 145g. By comparison this S4 measured 137x70x7.9mm and weighed 130g.
Its increased size is likely because Samsung has built the Galaxy S5 to be IP67 certified. This means the Galaxy S5 is scratch, dust and even water resistant. We didn't get a chance to test the water resistance, but found the Galaxy S5 does feel significantly moer solidly built than previous Galaxy handsets.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 also keeps the same ergonomic curved shape as the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S3, so despite its bigger size, it still felt comfortable to hold.
Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S5 with a 5.1in full HD Super Amoled, 1920x1080 display. In general, we found the screen featured wonderfully vibrant colours and brightness levels, and had great viewing angles.
We were also impressed with the Galaxy S5's ability to intelligently adjust the display settings based on the ambient background lighting conditions. For example, walking into a brightly lit area that made the screen all but illegible, the Galaxy S5 automatically boosted the brightness setting to maximum, so we could once again read text on the display.
Operating system and software
The Galaxy S5 features a heavily customised version of Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The most noticeable changes are fairly cosmetic tweaks to the user interface, with Samsung once again flooding its flagship device with a host of custom applications and widgets and altering the native Android apps icons to make them look "simpler".
Being blunt we're still not fans of the custom user interface and find it not as nice as Android's slightly cleaner-looking native user interface (UI). That said, it is to Samsung's credit that the Galaxy S5's user interface is significantly less busy than previous Galaxy smartphones.
We also noticed some useful fitness applications, chief of which was its new S Health 3.0 feature. This uses information stored on the Galaxy S5, combined with biometric data collected by its custom pedometer and built-in heart rate monitor, to offer users fitness advice and help create more effective exercise regimes. For most people in the workforce these will prove a welcome time saver.
The Samsung Galaxy S5 also comes with a variety of security features. Chief of these is its new fingerprint scanner. Like the Touch ID scanner seen on the Apple iPhone 5S, the Finger Scanner is housed in the Galaxy S5's physical Home button, and allows users to set the device to unlock by scanning their fingerprint.
As an added bonus, users can also set the Galaxy S5 to require users to prove their identity with the scanner when making payments via PayPal.
The Galaxy S5 is also confirmed to feature the latest version of Samsung's Knox security services when it is released.
Knox is a custom sandboxing security service that lets users create separate work and personal areas on the device. Data stored on the work side is encrypted and password protected.
Samsung has yet to unveil the latest version of Knox and the review unit we tested didn't have it installed, so we can't comment on what new features it will have. However, in the past we've found Knox to be a definite selling point for Galaxy devices.
Samsung has configured the Galaxy S5 with a cutting-edge 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 and 2GB of RAM. We didn't get a chance to see how the Galaxy S5 dealt with demanding tasks such as 3D gaming, or to benchmark it properly during our hands on. But we were impressed with the Galaxy S5's performance in the time we had with it: it opened webpages and apps in seconds, and easily dealt with every task we threw at it.
The Galaxy S5 also features Cat 4 LTE connectivity, meaning users willing to pay for it will also be able to enjoy 4G connectivity speeds up to 150Mbps come its release.
Samsung has made a big deal about the Galaxy S5's 16MP rear camera, claiming it boasts the world's fastest autofocus speed of 0.3 seconds.
There is certainly some truth to this claim, and the Galaxy S5 does indeed feature a fantastically fast shutter speed. Images taken in the well-lit showroom generally came out fairly well, featuring decent colour balance and contrast levels and looking reasonably crisp. Sadly, we didn't get to test outside of the showroom so can't comment on how the camera performs in more adverse lighting conditions.
We were also pleased with the Galaxy S5's enhanced advanced High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Selective Focus features. The HDR Live option that lets users manually adjust the light and dark levels in a photo. A Selective Focus feature lets you set the camera to focus on a specific area or object while simultaneously blurring out the background, creating a shallow depth of field.
Storage and battery
Samsung will release the Galaxy S5 in 16GB and 32GB versions, both of which can have their capacity upgraded by a maximum of 128GB via a micro SD slot.
The Galaxy S5 also features a sizeable 2,800mAh battery, which Samsung claims will last for several days off one charge, though we didn't get a chance to check this claim during our hands on.
Due for release in April, our opening impressions of the Galaxy S5 are positive. Featuring a more rugged IP67 certified design, beefed-up processor and coming loaded with a robust selection of security features, the Galaxy S5 has the potential to be one of 2014's standout business smartphones.
Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy S5.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
05 Feb 2014
Data security has been a growing concern for numerous businesses, with intellectual property theft or loss having the potential to cripple even the healthiest of firms. This is because, not only do lost or hacked computers put the company at a competitive disadvantage, thanks to new legislation regarding the powers of the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), they can also land them with a hefty fine.
Fujitsu has looked to monopolise on businesses' security and data security concerns, marketing its brand new Celsius H730 with Palm Vein Security Reader as the ideal machine for any company working with sensitive customer data or valuable intellectual property.
Design and build
Visually the Celsius H730 is unashamedly business focused and is clearly designed to be a workstation, rather than a laptop. The pre-production unit we had a chance to test measured in at a hefty 380x257x35.5mm and weighed 2.9kg, so you wouldn't want to lug it around for an entire day.
Making up for this, Fujitsu has taken advantage of the added real estate and loaded the Celsius H730 with a variety of graphics and component options. Unlike many other workstations that use Intel integrated graphics, Fujitsu has loaded the Celsius H730 with Nvidia Quadro professional graphics, offering K510M, K1100M and K2100M options.
Fujitsu has also equipped the Celsius H730 with a host of port and connectivity features, including an old school optical disc drive. Backing this up the Celsius H730 features four USB 3.0, two display and single VGA, DVI, Ethernet, audio in and out, and Kensington lock ports.
As an added bonus, the Celsius H730's rear battery is removable, meaning users on the move can pack a spare battery when they plan to be away from a power supply for a while.
Opening up the Celsius H730, we also got a chance to check out its full-sized keyboard and trackpad. Featuring a full-sized number pad, we found, while it wasn't backlit, the Celsius H730's keyboard was pleasant to type on. This was as much due to the reactive, snappy feel of the keys as it was the keyboard's large size.
We were also impressed with the build quality of the Celsius H730. While the Celsius H730 does have plastic parts, the workstation feels very robustly built and left us reasonably assured it could survive the odd accidental bump or scrape.
The Celsius H730 comes loaded with a 15.6in LED backlit 1920x1080 display. Despite coming with a Windows 8 licence, the Celsius H730 doesn't feature a touch option. While this may be a bit of an issue for some early Windows 8 adopters, considering the number of businesses snubbing the latest version of Microsoft's operating system the absence is forgivable.
In terms of display quality, we found the Celsius H730 performed reasonably well. In our bright office we found it, in general, boasted decent colour balance and brightness levels. The only slight issue we noticed was that it could at times become difficult to use when hit with direct sunlight.
The demo unit we tested boasted a cutting-edge Intel Haswell i7 Core processor, though it is also available in an i5 option. The Celsius H730 also comes with a variety of memory options ranging from a basic 4GB of RAM up to 32GB.
This, combined with its Nvidia graphics, means the Celsius H730 should be capable of dealing with even the most demanding of tasks and will be ideal for industries with high-performance needs, such as the financial or engineering sectors.
We didn't get a chance to test quite how powerful the Celsius H730 is or benchmark it during our hands on, but we will do this in our full review.
Fujitsu offers the Celsius H730 in Windows 7 and Windows 8 options. The demo unit we tried ran using Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. The Fujitsu spokesman on hand told us the majority of the units are set up to run Windows 7 as most critical independent software vendor (ISV) applications from companies such as Adobe and Oracle are yet to be optimised for Windows 8. He added that each Celsius H730 will come with a licence key for the newer Windows version, ensuring that they can be upgraded at the customer's convenience.
The Celsius H730's enterprise appeal is compounded by its advanced security features. The Fujitsu Celsius H730 is the first ever laptop to come with the option to add an integrated Palm Vein Security Reader and Workplace Protect software.
The technology is similar to the Touch ID fingerprint scanner seen on Apple's iPhone 5S and uses biometric data to authenticate the identity of its user. Specifically the Palm Vein Security Reader scans the blood vessels in the user's hand to confirm their identity before unlocking. Unlike the iPhone Touch ID scanner, the Palm Vein sensor doesn't require the user to touch the device, but to hover their hand over the sensor, which is located at the bottom-right of its keyboard.
Fujitsu claims the scanner is the most reliable and secure way to lock any laptop. A spokesman told us the scanner has a 0.00008 percent false positive rate. By comparison he said fingerprint scanners have a less impressive 0.001 percent false positive rate.
We were impressed by how well the scanner worked. We set up the Palm Vein Security Reader using the Workplace Protect application, which simply required us to let the sensor scan our hand three times. Once done, the scanner proved capable of accurately and reliably authenticating our identity and generally took around four seconds to scan our hand and unlock.
As an added perk, the Celsius H730's Palm Vein Security Reader can register several users' identities and lock them to different accounts stored on the machine, so it can be used on shared devices with multiple users.
The scanner is backed up by a number of other robust security features, including Intel vPro. Intel vPro is designed to secure the device against attacks such as rootkits, viruses and malware at a hardware level. As an added bonus, vPro also lets IT managers remotely monitor and interact with machines at a hardware level, making it quicker and easier for them to spot and mitigate any attacks on the machine.
The Celsius H730 is available from Fujitsu on a channel sales model with prices starting at £1,182. The Palm Vein Security Reader version is due for release sometime in March, and will add an extra £75 to the workstation's up-front cost.
Having tested the Celsius H730, we're fairly impressed. It comes loaded with a host of security features and hardware pre-installed, and includes the option for an integrated PalmSecure scanner, so the Celsius H730 is one of the safest choices for any business dealing with sensitive data or valuable intellectual property.
Add to this its powerful Haswell processor and dedicated Nvidia graphics card options and we can see the Fujitsu Celsius H730 with the Palm Vein Security Reader being a big hit in industries such as banking and engineering.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Fujitsu Celsius H730 workstation.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
14 Jan 2014
Since being bought by Google, Motorola has been going through a gradual period of refocus. In November last year this reached fruition with the release of the Motorola Moto G, a phone that offered specifications traditionally seen on £300-plus devices at a bare-bones £135 starting price.
Looking to repeat its success with the Moto G, Motorola has raised the bar and chosen to release its flagship Moto X handset in the UK. However, at £380 SIM-free and coming out six months later than its initial US release, some naysayers have been justifiably sceptical of the Moto X's chances.
Design and build
The black-finish Moto X we tried featured an understated, fairly minimalist design, similar to the one seen on the more affordable Moto G. Featuring a single-piece chassis, with soft rounded corners and a slightly curved back, the main difference we noticed between the two phones is that the X has a slightly more premium-feeling, textured back.
While some will bemoan the fact the X's design isn't radically different from the G's, we're fairly happy Motorola that didn't decide to rework the wheel. Testing the 129x65x10.4mm Moto X, we found the pebble-like design made the phone very comfortable to hold, and this was helped by the fact that the Moto X weighs a reasonable 130g.
We also found the Moto X feels reasonably well crafted. Featuring a nano-coating, the Moto X is technically "splash and water resistant". We didn't get a chance to test this during our hands on, but the coating made the Moto X feel fairly scratch and bump proof, and left us feeling reassured it could survive the odd accidental drop.
The Moto X comes with a 4.7in 720p (720x1280) 316ppi Amoled capacitive touchscreen. While we're slightly disappointed the Moto X isn't 1020p and features a lower ppi density than competing phones – such as the Nexus 5, which boasts a 5in 1080x1920 in-plane switching (IPS) plus capacitive touchscreen – during our opening tests the Moto X's display did perform well.
Using the screen in the brightly lit showroom floor, the display proved reasonably good. With the brightness cranked to full we were able to continue using the Moto X, even under direct overhead light. We also found, thanks to its Amoled tech, colours were wonderfully vibrant and rich. And despite not breaking the 400ppi count, text and icons were suitably crisp. During our hands-on, we had no trouble reading text displayed on the screen.
We also got a chance to see the Moto X's custom Active Display technology during the briefing, which is designed to push updates including incoming or missed calls to the user when the phone is locked. The tech does this by making the Moto X's display pulse on with the information displayed. The feature was far more pleasant than the traditional LED light alerts seen on most phones – though we are slightly concerned it could be a drain on the Moto X's battery.
Operating system and software
The UK version of the Moto X is due to ship with the latest 4.4.2 KitKat version of Android pre-installed. As an added bonus, from what we saw during our hands-on, the version looked close to untouched.
This is a big deal: by choosing not to reskin Android, Motorola has not only made the Moto X's user interface significantly less cluttered and pleasant to use than some competing phones – such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, which features a less than ideal Touchwiz skin – but it has also ensured the Moto X will be ready for future software upgrades.
This is because, by not drastically changing Android, Motorola won't have to develop or adapt the Moto X's software to work with new Android versions. This means theoretically the phone could get software updates faster than phones running more heavily customised versions.
The only obvious additions we noticed to the Moto X's software were Motorola's custom Migrate, Assist and Connect applications, and a non-touch speech recognition service. Migrate is a basic QR code feature that aims to make it easier to set up the Moto X, and lets you move files, basic settings and call history from your previous Android phone.
Assist is a productivity app designed to let you set up automatic actions for certain situations. Connect is a custom app designed to let users take incoming calls and messages directed to the Moto X using their computer.
The speech recognition technology builds on Android's inbuilt voice command powers, and is designed to let users interact with their phone without having to physically touch it. It tailors the phone to recognise its owner's voice and lets them ask the phone for directions and to open applications, for example.
We didn't get a chance to test any of the custom applications during our hands-on time but will make sure to do so in our full review.
In a day where quad-core processors are the vogue item in the Android smartphone world, Motorola has oddly chosen to load the Moto X with a dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. While not on a par with the quad-core Snapdragon 800-powered Nexus 5 or Snapdragon 600-powered Galaxy S4, the Moto X is backed up by 2GB of RAM and a powerful quad-core Adreno 320 GPU, and so is still set to perform fairly fast.
But, using the Moto X for regular tasks, including surfing the internet, watching a YouTube video and navigating between menus, we found the phone was fairly nippy. We'll make sure to put the Moto X through its paces with more demanding applications, such as 3D games, in our full review.
The Moto X comes with a 10MP rear and 2MP front camera. The 10MP rear camera comes with custom Quick Capture technology. The tech lets users activate the camera simply by twisting their wrist twice and users can take photos in split seconds just by tapping the screen with the camera application open.
Testing the camera on the showroom floor we found images taken on the Moto X were of reasonably good quality. Colour balance and contrast levels were decent and photos in general came out looking reasonably crisp.
Taken on the Motorola Moto X
We also found the camera's shutter speed was fairly good, with it being able to take rapid successions of shots as we ferociously tapped away on the device's screen. The only issue we noticed was that the autofocus could at times miss the subject matter we wanted and wasn't great at dealing with moving objects. In these situations images could come out slightly blurry.
Battery and storage
The Moto X is powered by a 2,200mAh battery, which Motorola lists as being able to last for up to 24 hours of "mixed usage". We'll test this thoroughly in our full review.
Storage-wise the Moto X features a fairly minimal 16GB built in. Luckily, though, Motorola has bundled the Moto X with 50GB of free Google Drive storage for the first two years after purchase.
Had we got our hands on the Moto X six months ago when the phone was first released in the US, our opening impressions would have been far more positive. Featuring an all-but untouched version of the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system, and what at first look appears to be an above-average camera and display, there is plenty to like about the Moto X. But priced at £380, costing £80 more than Google's Nexus 5 flagship, which features comparable and at times superior on-paper specs, it's clear the Moto X is going to have a tough time battling for sales when it is released in February.
Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Motorola Moto X.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson.
LAS VEGAS: Unlike previous shows, at this year's CES Korean tech giant Samsung's chose to unveil a number of unashamedly business focused devices. Chief of these are its new Galaxy Tab Pro range of Android tablets.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in model is the smallest of the new tablets in Samsung's enterprise-friendly arsenal. However, despite featuring a smaller screen and chassis, the tablet still boasts a number of top-end internal components and productivity features.
Design and build
Despite being smaller than its 12.2in sibling, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in features the same visual design. Up close the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in looks like a blown-up version of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 smartphone. It features the same metallic lining along its sides and faux leather finish back.
This is no bad thing, as like other Samsung devices the design ensures the 219x129x7.2mm Galaxy Tab Pro is fairly comfortable in hand. This fact is helped by its light weight with the WiFi-only version we tested weighing 331g and the LTE version a slightly chunkier 336g.
The Tab Pro 8.4in also felt reasonably built with its fake leather finish back and metal sides leaving us feeling fairly reassured it could survive the odd accidental bump.
Samsung's loaded the Tab Pro with an 8.4in 2560x1600, 359ppi, super clear LCD capacitive touchscreen. Using the Tab Pro on the CES 2014 showroom floor we were impressed how good it was. Text displayed on the tablet remained legible and usable even in the brightly lit conditions. It also proved to have decent viewing angles and great brightness and colour balance levels.
Operating system and software
Like the Tab Pro 12.2in, the Tab Pro 8.4in runs using Google's latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system overlaid with Samsung's new Magazine UX skin. The skin is very different to Samsung's consumer-focused Touchwiz and alters Android's user interface to the point it is all but unrecognisable.
This meant that when we first picked up the tablet it took us a good few minutes to get our bearings. However, after that we soon began to notice a number of cool productivity and security features. The best of these was the inclusion of Samsung's Knox security service. Knox is a security service designed to protect the device at a hardware level. Samsung claims the service is capable of warding off all manner of attacks, including Trojanised apps.
The Tab Pro 8.4in also features the same Multi Window support seen on the Tab Pro 12.2in. The Multi Window supports lets users split the Tab Pro's screen into up to four different windows. This means users can run, view and use up to four applications at any one time. While we found the feature was very useful on the Tab Pro 12.2in, we found the Tab Pro 8.4in's smaller size reduced its allure. With four windows open we found text became so small and was slightly awkward to read.
Unlike the Tab Pro 12.2in, the Tab Pro 8.4in doesn't offer an octa-core option. Instead both the 4G and WiFi-only models are powered by a quad-core 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and feature 2GB of RAM.
We didn't get the chance to benchmark the Tab Pro 8.4in or see how it performed running demanding applications, like 3D games. However, testing it using the applications pre-installed on it we found it was very fast. Apps like Google Drive, Facebook, YouTube and Chrome opened close to instantaneously. During our hands on we didn't notice any performance issues, even when running multiple applications at once.
Battery and storage
The Tab Pro 8.4in comes with a Li-Ion 4800 mAh battery. Sadly we didn't get a chance to battery burn the Tab Pro 8.4in to see how long its battery lasts, but a spokesman told us it would be "above average" - we'll make sure to check this claim come our full review.
Samsung's confirmed the Tab Pro 8.4in will be available in 16GB and 32GB options. Both models will feature a microSD card slot that will let users upgrade its storage to a maximum of 64GB.
Overall our opening impressions of Samsung's Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in are positive. While its smaller screen means it's not as pleasant to use certain services, like Multi Window support compared to a larger screen device, there is still plenty to like about the tablet.
Featuring a powerful quad-core processor, productivity focused version of Android, bright and crisp screen, and Samsung Knox security services, the Tab Pro 8.4in has the potential to be one of 2014's best business tablets. However, its ability to deliver on its promise depends very heavily on its price - a key bit of information Samsung's remaining cagey about.
Check back with V3 later this year for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4in.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
09 Jan 2014
LAS VEGAS: LG announced its first curved smartphone in October – called the G Flex – and we managed to spend some time testing the phone at CES ahead of its release next month.
With the LG G Flex due to be the first curved smartphone to go on sale in the UK, it's unlikely that the handset is going to be a huge success, as consumers are still unconvinced that flexible displays are the way forward. However, during our hands-on time with the handset in Las Vegas this week, LG might have managed to convince us otherwise.
Of course the design of the LG G Flex is the handset's main talking point, and it's the first device we've ever handled that boasts a curved chassis.
Thanks to its curved display the phone sits more comfortably than most when held in the palm of the hand, and although this sounds a little silly it really does sit more nicely against the side of your head, although the handset's large size means that you're still likely to look pretty odd. That said, at 8.7mm thick and 177g, the LG G Flex doesn't seem bulky or unwieldy.
The device is truly flexible too, meaning that you can push down on the handset's screen, and the phone, as its name suggests, easily flexes itself back into shape. We can't see a practical use for this, but it's likely to get heads turning nonetheless.
Another interesting feature of the LG G Flex's design is that the plastic casing is capable of 'self-healing', meaning that if you accidentally scratch it with your keys it should be able to fix itself. You'll also find that the handset's main hardware keys on the rear of the device, much like on the LG G2, and these seem to fall into a natural position when the phone is held in the hand.
While the design of the LG G Flex is impressive, the screen is its most impressive feature. Measuring 6.1in with 1280x720 resolution, the curved P-OLED display, despite our doubts, does match LG's claims that viewing images and video on the device is more immersive than on your regular smartphone.
While its 1280x720 resolution is usually found on mid-range smartphones, the OLED technology makes colours look vibrant and natural, while the slightly concave curve of the screen offers an immersive viewing experience.
Performance and software
Under the bonnet, the LG G Flex has a quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, and despite LG's close ties with Google, it runs the now somewhat dated Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system.
Although we have yet to benchmark the phone, we found the device impressively nippy, and despite putting it thoroughly through its paces - opening apps, browsing the web and multitasking - the phone showed no sign of stuttering.
Impressively, LG has left the Android mobile operating system largely untouched on the G Flex, offering a clean, almost vanilla user interface. However, it has added a few software features to the bendy smartphone, including a split screen mode and a knock to unlock function.
Before we got our hands on the LG G Flex we couldn't see the benefit of owning a phone with a curved display. But during our brief time with the device on the CES show floor in Las Vegas, LG managed to convince us otherwise.
A curved screen isn't exactly essential, but we found that the display offered a much more immersive viewing experience than other smartphones with similar specifications. It's also likely to turn heads in public, unlike the usual black, rectangular handsets.
But we weren't completely sold on the G Flex's back-level mobile operating system and low screen resolution. We're also not sure that LG will be able to convince people to opt for a curved screen – at least not for now. Check back with V3 soon for a full LG G Flex review.
LAS VEGAS: Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 alongside its Galaxy Tab Pro line-up at CES on Monday, and here are our opening impressions of the firm's first tablet made for professionals.
Not only this, but it's also the company's first 12in tablet, with Apple reportedly also set to join it later this year.
We got some hands-on time with the Galaxy Note Pro on the CES showroom floor on Tuesday, and it quickly managed to convince us that it could be the best tablet for business folk yet.
Samsung clearly thinks that 12in tablets are the next big thing, given that it has launched two this week in Las Vegas, but we're not entirely convinced yet.
At 295.6x204x7.95mm the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is not a bulky device, but with a weight of 735g, it's fairly heavy. We used the Galaxy Note Pro for approximately 15-20 minutes on the CES show floor, and by the time we finished we found our wrists begging for us to let go.
For those who don't mind a weighty device, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro isn't bad-looking. It sports the same faux leather backing as the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, and will be available in the same black and white flavours. While the textured back isn't quite to our tastes, it does feel nice in the hand and sets the tablet apart from others on the market.
While we're not fans of the added weight that the large 12.2in screen adds to the Galaxy Note Pro tablet, we found the display quite impressive. It boasts 2560x1600 resolution, which makes it competitive on paper with Apple iPad tablets.
That said, with the 8.4in and 10.1in Galaxy Tab Pro models sporting the same screen resolution, the display's crispness and vibrancy seem somewhat pale in comparison.
The display, unlike that of the almost identically specified Galaxy Tab Pro, also supports Samsung's S Pen stylus, which comes included with the device. This, paired with the large 12.2in screen, makes for an all around productive experience, and we found that it felt natural to take notes and doodle on the larger than average screen. This also means that the device can take advantage of Samsung's S Pen optimised apps.
Performance and software
Under the bonnet, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a powerhouse. The 3G and WiFi model ships with Samsung's homegrown octa-core Exynos 5 processor, while the 4G LTE versions has a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip.
We got our hands on the quad-core model, and as you'd expect from a tablet of this calibre we found the Galaxy Note Pro nippy. Apps open quickly, swiping through homescreens is especially smooth, and the device feels quite responsive.
The Galaxy Note Pro is one of the only devices announced at this year's CES that arrives running Google's Android 4.4 KitKat mobile operating system, which is a bonus for fans of Google's software, but you wouldn't know this by looking at the tablet.
Samsung has skinned the Android mobile operating system with its new Magazine UX, which looks like an amalgamation of Windows 8 and Flipboard. When we first picked up the device, the custom software felt very alien, and it took us about 10 minutes to study the user interface before we felt confident using it.
Once we had familarised ourselves with the user interface, we found it quite pleasant to use. As its branding suggests, swiping through screens and apps mimics flicking through a magazine and saves jumping in and out of applications, with Samsung clearly looking to make this device as productive as possible.
Samsung has also loaded the Galaxy Note Pro with features designed to convince professionals not to buy an iPad. The most obvious of these is multi-window mode, allowing four applications to be open on the screen at once, and a PC-like onscreen keyboard, which we found made it easier to type than Samsung's previous tablets.
There are several bundled business apps, too, including Cisco Webex, which is free for six months, as well as Dropbox, Remote PC and an onboard office productivity suite.
While we found the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro too large to hold comfortably and its Magazine UX confusing at first, the tablet soon managed to win us over.
In our opinion, there isn't a better alternative for business users on the market right now. While the iPad has famously won the affections of professional tablet customers, we found that Samsung's PC grade onscreen keyboard makes a huge difference when it comes to productivity, and the onboard apps and business focused features are added bonuses.
Of course, the tablet's success will really depend partly on its price when it hits the shelves – a pretty important detail that Samsung has so far managed to avoid revealing. Check back on the V3 website soon for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro.
08 Jan 2014
LAS VEGAS: For the past few years Korean tech heavyweight Samsung has been trying to shed its reputation as a purely consumer-focused company, releasing a steady stream of enterprise-friendly applications and services.
This CES, the company has taken this to new heights by unveiling its new Galaxy Tab Pro range of tablets. The Tab Pro 12.2 is the biggest – both physically and strategically – of this new range of enterprise-focused Android tablets.
Design and build
Our initial reaction was shock when we picked up the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2. Measuring in at 296x204x7.95mm, it's huge compared with other Android tablets. The tablet is also significantly heavier, with the WiFI-only model weighing a hefty 750g and the 3G/LTE model a slightly heavier 753g.
But after a couple of minutes we soon became used to the increased size and weight, and found that it wasn't too unwieldy to hold thanks to its ergonomic design. The Tab Pro looks like a blown-up Galaxy Note smartphone, with the same metallic sides and faux-leather back. The Note-like design meant that, unlike some other Samsung Galaxy devices, the Tab Pro felt sturdily built and didn't feel overly plastic.
Samsung has loaded the Tab Pro with a gigantic 12.2in WQXGA, 2560x1600 Super Clear LCD display. This makes the Tab Pro one of the biggest Android tablets currently available.
Overall, during our hands-on we enjoyed the extra screen real estate. As well as making it easier to read text displayed on the screen, it also made it quicker and easier to edit documents and spreadsheets on the Tab Pro.
We were also fairly impressed with the Tab Pro's screen quality, with it proving pleasantly bright and vibrant.
Our one qualm with using the Tab Pro's screen is that, unlike its Note Pro sibling, it doesn't come bundled with an S Pen stylus. This meant that even with the extra screen space certain applications, such as S Note, were awkward to use.
Operating system and software
The Tab Pro 12.2 comes with the latest Android 4.4 Kit Kat pre-installed. But be warned that the operating system has been heavily customised and Samsung has overlayed it with its brand new Magazine UX interface.
Magazine UX alters KitKat so much that it's close to unrecognisable. After a while with the device, though, we soon found our bearings and began to take advantage of some the new user interface's productivity and business-focused features.
One of the best we noticed was the Tab Pro 12.2's multi-window support. The feature splits the Tab Pro's screen into up to four different windows so users can use more than one app at a time. We fired up the Tab Pro's web browser, while keeping email, Twitter and a Google Drive document open, and we can definitely see the appeal of the feature for business users who like to multitask on the move.
The Note Pro 12.2 demo unit we tried also had Samsung's Knox security service pre-installed. Knox is a security feature from Samsung, similar to BlackBerry Balance. The feature is designed to secure the device at a hardware level and protect users from threats such as Trojanised apps.
The feature also has sandboxing powers that let users create separate work and home areas on the phone. Businesses can have app management and data-wipe powers on the work side, while they can't touch non-work data stored on the user's personal side.
Processor and performance
The LTE version of the Tab Pro is powered by a Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core processor, while the WiFi-only version uses an Exynos 5 Octa chipset. Both versions of the Tab Pro feature 3GB of RAM.
We only got to try the LTE Qualcomm-powered Tab Pro. While we were slightly sad not to try the octa-core model we found the demo unit was still a very fast device. It opened applications almost instantly and in general dealt with any task we threw at it, hassle free.
We didn't have time to properly benchmark the Tab Pro, or see how it dealt with more difficult tasks such as 3D gaming, but we will be sure to do so in our full review.
Battery and storage
Samsung has loaded the Tab Pro 12.2 with a sizeable 9,500mAh battery. We didn't get a chance to battery burn the unit, but a spokesman told us the device should last "longer than most tablets" off one charge. Storage-wise the Tab Pro comes in 32GB and 64GB versions.
Overall, our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 were positive. Despite being significantly larger and heavier than most tablets and featuring a radically altered version of Android 4.4 KitKat, the new Galaxy Tab bristles with enterprise appeal. Featuring a host of productivity and security applications, powerful chipset and LTE connectivity options, the Tab Pro has the potential to be the best Android business tablet this year. But with Samsung remaining cagey on one key detail – the Tab Pro's price – we're going to have to reserve full judgement until this is announced.
Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 tablet.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
08 Jan 2014
LAS VEGAS: Sony launched its miniature Xperia Z1 Compact smartphone, which the firm says retains the high-end specifications of the full-sized Xperia Z1, at CES in Las Vegas on Monday.
Unlike Samsung and HTC, Sony decided "mini" shouldn't mean sup-par, and has configured the Xperia Z1 Compact with the same top-end specifications as its flagship smartphone to attract those looking for a powerful, pint-sized handset.
The Xperia Z1 Compact is a smaller version of the Sony Xperia Z1, which in terms of design is no bad thing. We're fans of the boxy, glossy design of Sony's Xperia line, and the Xperia Z1 Compact is no exception.
We do have a couple of gripes, though. The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact is slightly chunkier than its predecessor, measuring 9.5mm thick compared with 8.5mm, which means it doesn't sit quite as comfortably in the palm of the hand, although at just 140g, it feels light.
The handset's also prone to picking up fingerprints, which means it can get grubby quite easily, although its glossiness means it's very easy to clean.
We can let these gripes go, however, as the Xperia Z1 Compact's design also means that like the Xperia Z1 it's resistant against dust, water and scratches. It will also launch in a number of colours, including black, white, yellow and pink.
The display on the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact isn't as impressive as its big brother's 5in 1920x1080 resolution display, but that's not to say that it's disappointing. Measuring 4.3in with 1280x720 resolution, it's clear that text isn't quite as sharp as on the Xperia Z1, but the screen still delivers vibrant colours and detailed images.
Sony has equipped the Xperia Z1 Compact's screen with IPS technology, which means that viewing angles on the pint-sized smartphone are above average.
Performance and software
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact comes powered by a 2.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM. This is rare for a smartphone of this size, besides the iPhone 5S, to have such fast components. The chip is just as impressive in the real world as it is on paper, and we found the device very quick, considering its size.
There's LTE support onboard, and the handset arrives with 16GB of internal storage that can be expanded to 64GB with a micro SD card.
As for software, the Xperia Z1 Compact runs Google's Android 4.3 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, but Sony has said that it will release an update to Android 4.4 KitKat "almost instantly" after the handset's release.
It's unlikely to make too much difference however, as Sony has coated Google's mobile operating system with its own custom user interface. While we've never been huge fans of Sony's own skin, finding it overbearing compared with a vanilla Android user interface, the firm's application line-up is a bonus, with the Xperia Z1 Compact arriving loaded with the firm's Walkman and PlayStation companion apps, a boon for those who own a PS4.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Xperia Z1 Mini Compact is its rear-facing camera, with the downsized device packing the same 20.7MP sensor as its flagship sibling.
We gave it a quick go on the CES show floor, and we're pleased to report that image quality is just as impressive as on the Xperia Z1, with pictures appearing crisp, clear and full of natural colour, even under the glaring Las Vegas lights.
The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact also features a 2MP front camera that can shoot HD 1080p video.
For those after a pint-sized smartphone with top-end smartphone specifications and features, it's a tough call between the iPhone 5S and the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact. The handset's 4.3in screen is impressively vibrant, while its quad-core processor and top-end camera make this one of the most attractive small smartphones on the market.
Sony has not yet announced a price for the handset, but its success will no doubt be determined by how much it costs when it goes on sale later in 2014.
Check back with V3 soon for our full Sony Xperia Z1 Compact review.